Submission from the Calgary Climate Hub on 2020 City Budget
The Calgary Climate Hub supports the need to resolve The City’s financial challenges. It is essential that all options must be assessed – even those that may be uncomfortable.
We offer recommendations to assist in balancing The City’s financial budget and balancing Calgary’s “climate budget.” In doing so, we considered the two key objectives of The City:
1. Providing efficient and effective services for all residents that are high-quality, fairly-priced, and enhance residents’ productivity and quality of life.
2. Ensuring that the lives, livelihoods, and opportunities of vulnerable residents are not jeopardized by lack of affordable access to City services.
Given the urgency of the global climate crisis, Council must assess budget decisions using a climate-lens to determine the extent to which individual decisions, policies and priorities in spending contribute to, or impede, the reduction of City and community greenhouse gas emissions. This requires a third objective:
3. Immediately begin taking tangible actions outlined in The City’s Climate Resilience Strategy to reduce Calgary’s greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement and The City’s own target of an 80 per cent reduction by 2050.
With these objectives in mind, we offer four broad recommendations:
1. Maintain and, where possible, increase funding for public transit.
2. Increase revenues through strategic increase of fees that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
3. Reduce costs and subsidies associated with new community development that are not consistent with the Climate Resilience Strategy.
4. Implement financially neutral and positive measures identified in the Economics of Low Carbon Development report.
Implementation of the Climate Resilience Strategy
There is an urgent need for quick and decisive climate action by not only The City, but all Calgarians. The budget for climate action must reflect that. We recommend that Council direct Administration to:
· report by Q3 2020 the budget and other resources required to increase revenue and decrease costs in alignment with the Climate Resilience Strategy, and
· implement, by 2022, programs to achieve by 2030 the financially neutral and positive measures identified in the Economics of Low Carbon Development report.
Maintain and, where possible, increase funding for public transit.
Public transit is one of the key ways to achieve the City’s climate goals. We fully support Keep Calgary Strong’s submission, including:
· Maintain the current transit service and fare structure
· Preserve the low-income transit pass at current rates
Cutting transit funding will only further detract from Calgary’s ability to reduce emissions from transportation. Council must go further, though. As noted below, increased funding for public transit, along with cycling and walking, should be a priority once budget challenges are overcome.
Balancing revenue and user benefit for City services
We examined The City’s budget to determine if there are areas where the fee-for-service principle should be applied more effectively to be both fair and climate-positive. We identified four areas where City services are currently under-priced and balanced pricing would produce more incentives and funding for climate action.
1. Electricity, heating, waste disposal, water, and wastewater use by high consuming customers
2. Flood protection works
3. Road use
We recommend that Council direct Administration to, by Q2 2020:
· Identify and assess the ways in which fees and subsidies can be right-sized to ensure that everyone is paying their fair share for City services.
· Determine how the additional revenue and reduced costs should be used to provide sustainable and effective funding for the Climate Resilience Strategy and other essential programs, in particular public transit, cycling, and walking.
In doing that work, Administration will need to creatively examine The City’s existing authority to act and the ways in which The City can strengthen its ability to act. We know of several methods that are promising and are willing to work with members of Council and Administration to explore those methods.
Rightsizing new community assistance
As demonstrated in the 2019 Growth Strategy Monitoring Report and as we warned last year, the forecasts for new community development were overly optimistic. It was premature and unnecessary to approve the 14 new residential communities. It is prudent and proper that funding for those 14 communities be delayed.
The funding delay should extend until 2023. Council’s requirement for a three to five year supply of service suburban land is easily met by subdivisions already under development.
For 2020-2022, the estimated cost savings from the delay are:
· Operating costs: $14 million (property tax)
· Capital costs: $50 million (property tax and utility rates)
We recommend that Council direct Administration to:
· Remove all funding for the 14 new residential communities from the 2020-2022 budget
and reallocate the savings to priority services, including implementation of the Climate Resilience Strategy
· By Q3 2020, to
o Review all funding, costs, and revenue associated with new residential communities proposed and under development, and
o Recommend how that funding, costs, and revenue should be adjusted to ensure that new residential communities proposed and under development will be compliant with the Climate Resilience Strategy, the Municipal Development Plan, and the Calgary Transportation Plan.
These measures of targeted budgeting are vital to
· Be fiscally responsible;
· Achieve The City’s objectives without raising the property tax or other general, untargeted sources of revenue;
· Reduce the burden on those who have been paying far more than they should in both money and reduced services; and
· Ensure that Calgary achieves its climate goals in the most productive manner possible.